As we get into full swing for Halloween, many of us might find ourselves curled up on our couches with a blanket, a warm drink, and a nice, scary movie to occupy our nights. There's nothing like a good scare during this time of year, and it's even better if you can imagine the horrible reality the characters in a movie or show might find themselves in. Horror movies have a different effect on everybody, with some of the more supernatural elements being easier to shrug off than others. Regardless of where your scare meter ends, there's a huge list of horror or suspenseful films based entirely in the outdoors. Some films don't need to add supernatural or unexplainable horrors to create that feeling of anxiety or suspense. The outdoors can be taunting enough on it's own, and there are several films of true or imagined stories that do that very well. That being said, a good supernatural addition is always welcome in my book - and truthfully helps me to understand that it's entirely fictional, and therefore nothing to be truly afraid of.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
When The Blair Witch Project released in theaters, it was at a time of early adoption for internet users. Many people who saw the online advertisements truly believed this was a real documentary, and this formula has been copied by other movies, such as Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity (both great movies as well). A low budget indie film, The Blair Witch Project broke box office expectations for providing viewers an authentic, first person perspective into a horrific exploration of the mythical Blair Witch when 3 film students venture into the forest to determine the truth behind the legend. Investigating a long history of missing people in the forest, the group decide to venture in for themselves, recording their interactions and progress, which quickly turns to panic and confusion as the film progresses. The secrets held within the forest is the real horror in this film, and with the abundance of forest land around the country, it makes you wonder what might be lurking in the woods near you.
While this is an older film that many of us have likely seen, The Blair Witch Project is a classic horror film that I'm sure will find itself on many TV screens this month. If you haven't seen it yet, do yourself a favor and add this to your watch list.
The Grey (2011)
While The Grey isn't a horror movie exactly, it does focus on the suspense and anxiety that comes with being lost in the Alaskan wilderness. The main character, played by Liam Neeson, works as a wildlife security agent for an oil company. When their plane crashes in the wilderness, it's up to Liam to lead his group to safety. While the prospect of being stranded in the vast, frozen wilderness is enough suspense on it's own, it's made worse when a pack of wolves begins to follow the group, picking them off one by one. The suspense builds as the film progresses, with the surviving members growing more and more unstable as the elements continue to test their resolve.
Being a film about survival against all odds, The Grey is better suited for those who prefer more suspenseful films as opposed to outright horror. It's important to note that the suspense created is still enough to make your hairs stand on end, as the prospect of having to survive in such a hostile environment with no supplies, and no potential for rescue, is enough to make me lose a few hours of sleep that night.
The Ritual (2017)
Being a relatively new and mostly unknown horror entry, The Ritual brings a similar delivery method as The Blair Witch Project, but includes different horror elements that I can only relate to a modern film adaptation of the Eldritch creatures from H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulu mythos. I'll admit that I'm a big fan of supernatural horror, and the concept of ancient creatures that maintain the natural environments we visit is one that I enjoy in any work of fiction. The Ritual sees a group of 4 friends undertake a hike in the Scandinavian wilderness to honor a deceased friend. Taking a shortcut leads them to a village occupied by a cult that honors some mythical beast - which follows the group throughout the movie. One of the best suspense elements of this film is the unknown creature that lurks in the woods around, with only slight glimpses throughout a majority of the film, your imagination surrounding the horrors that await adds to the mystery and suspense.
I do have to give props for their monster design, as it doesn't follow the traditional elements of ghosts or monsters, but rather is a combination of indescribable entities that create a single, impossible to comprehend creature. Seriously - if you don't want to watch the film, just search what the monster reveal looks like and identify the different aspects if you can. If you've ever read any of H.P. Lovecraft's works, you'll feel right at home watching The Ritual.
While this is just a list of my top 3 Halloween films, there are dozens, if not hundreds more that will be watched throughout the rest of this month. I hope one of these three ends up on your watch list, but if you have any better films that fit the bill, we'd love to get your ideas on what we should add to our list!